Cause and Effect: Learning Challenges and Their Impact on First Year Students' Academic Progress

By Venicia Flora McGhie.

Published by The International Journal of Diversity in Education

Format Price
Article: Print $US10.00
Published online: May 9, 2014 $US5.00

This paper reports on findings of a study that was conducted during the 2009 and 2010 academic years among 20 new first year students in a business faculty at a historically black university (HBU) in South Africa. The aim of the study was not only to identify possible causes as to why black students are underperforming and dropping out, but more importantly, to determine how the causes manifested in the lives of these students and what the impact was on the students’ academic progress at the end of their first year of study. The data collection instruments consisted of two reflective written pieces, a questionnaire, and personal interviews as well as the students’ biographical information and academic transcripts. The analysis of the data revealed how learning challenges progressed from not being experienced to very serious at the beginning of the year and became severe in the latter part of the year. It further demonstrated that the students could not overcome or resolve the challenges and as a result, the challenges had a devastating impact on the students’ academic progress. By identifying the causes and effects of learning challenges on the lives of first year students, the study provided much needed information on why so many black students underperform and eventually drop out of higher education in South Africa.

Keywords: Higher Education, First-year Students, Learning Challenges, Academic Progress, Failure

The International Journal of Diversity in Education, Volume 13, Issue 3, May 2014, pp.65-78. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Published online: May 9, 2014 (Article: Electronic (PDF File; 220.767KB)).

Dr. Venicia Flora McGhie

Senior Lecturer, Academic Development Department, Faculty of Economic and Management Sciences, University of the Western Cape, Bellville, Cape Town, South Africa

McGhie is passionate about student development and academic support, and she works with first- and second-year students in the economic and management sciences faculty (EMS) at the University of the Western Cape, Cape Town, South Africa. Her area of specialisation is systemic functional linguistics, critical linguistics and second language acquisition. She is an academic development practitioner who is passionate about student learning, and student development and support. She believes that every student should be assisted and encouraged to reach his or her full potential.